Exploring surface biophysical-climate sensitivity to tropical deforestation rates using a GCM: A feasibility study

C. Kendra Gotangco Castillo, Kevin Robert Gurney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Deforestation perturbs both biophysical and carbon feedbacks on climate. However, biophysical feedbacks operate at temporally immediate and spatially focused scales and thus may be sensitive to the rate of deforestation rather than just to total forest-cover loss. Explored here is a method for simulating annual tropical deforestation in the fully coupled Community Climate System Model, version 3.0 (CCSM3) with the Dynamic Global Vegetation Model (DGVM) for testing biosphere climate sensitivity to "preservation pathways." Two deforestation curves were simulated-a 10% deforestation curve with a 10% preservation target (DFC10-PT10) versus a 1% deforestation curve with a 10% preservation target (DFC1-PT10). During active deforestation, albedo, net radiation, latent heat flux, and climate variables were compared for time dependence and sensitivity to tropical tree cover across the tropical band and the Amazon basin, central African, and Southeast Asian regions. The results demonstrated the feasibility of modeling incremental deforestation and detecting both transient and long-term impacts, although a warm/dry bias in CCSM3-DGVM and the absence of carbon feedbacks preclude definitive conclusions on the magnitude of sensitivities. The deforestation rates produced characteristic trends in biophysical variables with DFC10-PT10 resulting in rapid increase/decrease during the initial 10-30 years before leveling off, whereas DFC1-PT10 exhibits gradual changes. The rate had little effect on biophysical and climate sensitivities when averaged over tropical land but produced significant differences at a regional level. Over the long term, the rates produced dissimilar vegetation distributions, despite having the same preservation target in both cases. Overall, these results indicate that the question of rates is one worth further analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalEarth Interactions
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 16 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Biophysical feedbacks
  • Climate feedbacks
  • Dynamic vegetation
  • Preservation pathways
  • Tropical deforestation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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